All entries by this author

Oh That’s Who Likes Goddesses! *

Apr 26th, 2003 | Filed by

Saddam Hussein ‘wrote’ a ‘novel’ and, er, borrowed a painting of a ‘goddess’ for the cover. Very spiritual, she looks.… Read the rest

Interview With Steve Jones *

Apr 26th, 2003 | Filed by

A conversation about gender, sex, males as parasites, and dinner parties.… Read the rest


Apr 25th, 2003 7:10 pm | By

There was an interview with John Brady Kiesling on Fresh Air last night. He is the former mid-level diplomat who wrote a letter of resignation shortly before the war in Iraq started. The interview was both interesting and depressing, though not very surprising. Kiesling thinks nation-building and democracy-establishing in Iraq will require far more money and attention than the US has any intention of bestowing on them, that the tensions between Kurds and Shiites are going to be even worse than Saddam was, that the US has thrown away the good relations with Europe that the State Department has spent years and the efforts of people like Kiesling building up, and that the US fails to realise how much it … Read the rest

Then Again *

Apr 25th, 2003 | Filed by

Or maybe the WHO is not over-reacting to SARS after all.… Read the rest

Get a Grip, Ontario Doctor Says *

Apr 24th, 2003 | Filed by

SARS is nasty but it’s not the plague.… Read the rest

Nobody Go to Toronto! *

Apr 24th, 2003 | Filed by

Could the WHO be over-reacting a tiny bit?… Read the rest

Compelled to Read This *

Apr 24th, 2003 | Filed by

The New Scientist reviews What Philosophers Think and finds it necessary reading for scientists.… Read the rest

Anti-realism – what’s at stake? An interview with Jonathan Rée

Apr 24th, 2003 | By Jeremy Stangroom

There is a certain caricature of philosophers which has it that they spend
their time arguing about whether things like tables and chairs exist. This is
just a caricature, but nevertheless there is an element of truth in it when
it comes to the debate about realism and anti-realism. Put crudely, realists
– or, more precisely, external realists – think both that the world exists
independently of our perceptions of it and thoughts about it, and that we can
reliably know about the world. Anti-realists, for a variety of reasons, doubt
both these propositions.

The philosophical debate about realism and anti-realism – which involves arguments
about, for example, sense experience, language, and the nature of knowledge
– is complex and … Read the rest

Students Just Sliding By *

Apr 23rd, 2003 | Filed by

Survey of New York high school students finds them feeling unchallenged.… Read the rest

Appeals Panels Versus Teachers *

Apr 23rd, 2003 | Filed by

Teahers’ union calls for an end to panels that can force schools to take back pupils expelled for violence or threats.… Read the rest

Simple Gifts

Apr 22nd, 2003 9:52 pm | By

I linked to this essay about George Bush in the Atlantic Monthly a few days ago. I was and still am particularly interested in the depiction of Bush’s narrowness that Richard Brookhiser gives.

“Practically,” Brookhiser writes, “Bush’s faith means that he does not tolerate, or even recognize, ambiguity: there is an all-knowing God who decrees certain behaviors, and leaders must obey.” While this clear-cut belief structure enables him to make split-second decisions and take action with principled confidence, it also means that he is limited by “strictly defined mental horizons.”…”Bush may be a free-range animal, but he has a habitat, in which he stays. If he needs to know some facts that his advisers don’t know, he can discover them.

Read the rest

Could Do Better *

Apr 22nd, 2003 | Filed by

Matt Ridley is making good progress in agreeing with Steven Rose, Steven Rose says. … Read the rest

SARS in a Wilderness of Mirrors

Apr 22nd, 2003 | By David Stanway

There is an old Chinese folk tale in which a fool
deposits 300 pieces of silver in a hole. In order to conceal his largesse, he
puts up a sign nearby to announce that “300 pieces of silver do not lie here.”
The moral of the tale was that the more you try to cover something up, the more
obvious it is that something is being concealed.

The Chinese government, fiercely vigilant when
it comes to any manifestation of press freedom, are learning this lesson the
hard way with regard to the viral condition known as SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory
Syndrome. It used to be thought that in China, the only way of confirming if
a story was true … Read the rest

We Need Reductionism *

Apr 21st, 2003 | Filed by

Thomas DeGregori on the scientific advances ‘reductionism’ has made possible.… Read the rest

Fund Vocational Training Too *

Apr 21st, 2003 | Filed by

Engineering and technical apprenticeships should have as much money and esteem as academic subjects.… Read the rest

Theory *

Apr 21st, 2003 | Filed by

Don’t you wish you’d been there? No? No, nor do we.

External Resources

Read the rest

Iraqi History and Archaeology

Apr 19th, 2003 7:48 pm | By

The story of the looting of the Iraqi National Museum and other museums in Iraq is an interesting and deeply discouraging one. A giant hole has been blasted in the world’s stock of available knowledge that will never be completely repaired. Even if all the missing artworks do eventually turn up on the black market (a highly unlikely if), that still leaves all the books and manuscripts that went up in flames at the National Library, and all the artworks that are not missing but smashed. Whatever the neglect or indifference of the Pentagon in not protecting the sites, the damage is done now, and people who think history and knowledge are good things are in shock.

Slate has a … Read the rest


Apr 19th, 2003 6:00 pm | By

Ian Buruma says in this article in Prospect that the source of the bitterness between France and the US is that they are the two great missionary-revolutionary countries, the two great believers in universals, only they have different ‘universals’ (quite a paradoxical outcome). Both are idealist nations, both are the proud inheritors of institutions and values born in violent revolution, but the ideals and institutions and values are not the same ones. So we come to Liberty fries and Liberty toast and a deluge of Francophobe jokes on the Internet.

But it’s possible that Buruma overestimates US idealism at times.

Unless one believes, like Noam Chomsky, that the war was fought for the sake of corporate interests, that too was

Read the rest

Heat and Light Between Scientists *

Apr 19th, 2003 | Filed by

Shock-horror at tampering with the speed of light; coarse and flippant attacks on peer review.… Read the rest

Democracy or Freedom?

Apr 18th, 2003 7:00 pm | By

Sometimes it can seem as if Americans have a special gift for naïveté – something to do with living in a huge country bordered by oceans, thus distant from the rest of the world, and also to do with our dreams of exceptionalism and being the City on a Hill, and maybe also to do with vague notions that people who live right in the place where Levis and Hollywood movies and Big Macs actually come from have no need to do a lot of heavy lifting-type thought, that that kind of thing is for those poor deprived people in other countries who have to import their Jurassic Park and Kentucky Fried Chicken from us. Whatever the reason, we’re not … Read the rest